SWPS Scientist: Qinqin Yu

Photo May 18, 5 46 44 PM

Trying out different research areas gave me the broad perspective that I use to succeed in my work as a grad student today 

There’s one piece of advice that I would give to undergrad physical science majors: try out many different research areas in your discipline while you’re an undergrad. Not only does this give you a broad perspective of the various exciting research topics that exist, but it also lets you learn new skills, work in different group cultures, and if you plan on going to grad school, it helps you to make a more informed choice about the topic that you’ll do research on for 4-6 years.

When I was an undergraduate physics student, I had the opportunity to work in groups ranging from ultracold atoms — where I got to debug complicated electronics circuits and test my hand-eye coordination on aligning optics setups — to astronomy — where I got to analyze the composition of the oldest stars in the universe by looking at the absorption spectra of the stars’ atmosphere. These different research experiences taught me valuable lessons that are essential to how I work as a grad student researcher today: how to approach a complex problem from different angles and break it down into something doable, how to communicate with researchers who might speak different “science languages” to facilitate conversation, that research projects can “fail” in so many ways and those “failures” can spark the most creative new ideas, that reading and writing papers is an important tool for researchers to learn from each other, and that documentation is key.

I was excited to find out that the Python programming skills that I had started learning in the astronomy group came in handy when making data figures in the ultracold atoms lab. Or that the patience I developed from plowing through a complex research paper about exotic magnetic materials was the same patience that I needed for plowing through papers about squeezed light, a way to “trick” the uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics by squeezing the inherent uncertainty of the light’s properties from one axis to another.

When it came time for me to join a research group for graduate school, I was left thinking that there were still so many research areas and group styles that I wanted to experience: experimental cosmology, biophysics, and so much more. Thankfully, the UC Berkeley physics department allowed the option of doing research rotations, short 2-3 month long research projects with different faculty to try out research topics and mentoring styles—exactly what I was looking for. While I didn’t have a chance to try out all that I wanted to do, I did manage to try out a precision measurement group that uses ultracold atoms to study models in particle physics, an ultrafast optics group that studies how photosynthesis works, and finally an experimental biophysics group that makes models of evolution of microbes.

I became fascinated with experimental biophysics from the start because it’s not as orderly and logical as many physics problems can be, no matter how mathematically complicated they are. For most problems in biology, we don’t yet have a way of writing down a mathematical model to describe what’s going on, because there are so many unknown factors that still need to be discovered and tested through cleverly designed experiments with cutting edge technology. I have always loved tough problems, and I thought that modeling and experimenting on evolutionary dynamics was one of the messiest that I had come across yet.

Again, I was pleased to find out that the electronics circuits that I debugged in the ultracold atoms lab gave me the meticulous logic reasoning skills that are essential to debugging a complex microbiology experiment, and that all of the quantum mechanics papers that I had worked through with tough math were paying off when looking at the math expressions describing evolutionary models. I felt that because I had interacted with people from so many different backgrounds and disciplines, I wasn’t afraid to ask questions and was able to catch on more quickly to the words that evolutionary biologists and biophysicists use to describe their work.

It took me 4 tries to find the research area I enjoyed spending time on and with and the people in a research group that I enjoyed spending time with. For some people, they may be fascinated with the first research topic that you try, whereas the rest of us will bounce around to work on whatever interesting problems present themselves in different research areas. If you’re in the latter camp, like me, trying out different research topics will give the broad perspective that makes it easier to make this tough decision, and your time as an undergrad is the best time to do that. While it is important to give your best effort in any research group that you join in undergrad — not only to get a good recommendation letter but to gain experience from trying and failing — my experience and the experience of my peers has shown me that trying a few different groups in moderation can often be more educational than trying to learn all you can about a single research group. Whether you plan to go into academia or industry, getting these varied experiences will make you a better critical thinker, problem solver, and will make you more able to interact with people from different backgrounds.

*Note: for information regarding undergraduate research, check out this SWPS page, the advice section of the SPS website, and the physics department website. SWPS runs a research fair typically in the spring of every year where undergrads get to chat with grad students from a variety of different research areas. Sign up for the SWPS mailing list to stay updated on this event and others! Don’t hesitate to reach out to me or other grad students that you meet to talk more about research opportunities.


SWPS Scientist: Sydney Schreppler

Schreppler, S. Candid 3After finishing my PhD in physics at UC Berkeley, I considered a few choices for the next stage in my career. I could apply for industry jobs with a STEM focus, or find a position in a national lab, or continue academic research at a university. That last option typically means a postdoctoral appointment, the next step in the academic career path. Postdocs are members of research groups at universities and national labs who already have a PhD, and who spend most of their time doing research, either on their own or alongside students. Some postdocs also have teaching appointments.

For me, a postdoctoral position was an opportunity to learn a whole new set of experimental skills. During my PhD in Prof. Dan Stamper-Kurn’s Ultracold Atomic Physics group, I built and tuned lasers, cooled and trapped atoms, and measured quantum noise and forces. (All of this could fill up another entire blog post!) After six years, I was still enamored of the idea of testing quantum mechanics in the lab, but ready to try my hand at some new techniques. One building over, in LeConte Hall, I found a group also studying quantum mechanics, but with a different set of tools.

I am now a postdoc in Prof. Irfan Siddiqi’s Quantum Nanoelectronics Lab. We study fundamentals of quantum mechanics, asking questions like: How delicate are effects like quantum superposition and quantum entanglement? What is the impact of an observer (a snooping postdoc or an errant photon) on a quantum system? Can we build quantum devices to sufficient scale that they can be applied to real-world problems?

My experimental tools in QNL look quite different from my ultracold lab, but the underlying physics is surprisingly similar. Instead of atoms, we use home-built quantum particles called superconducting qubits. These are nanofabricated circuits made out of superconducting material like aluminum. The quantum nature comes from the Josephson junction, a circuit element that controls the tunneling of Cooper pairs, or pairs of correlated electrons in superconductors. Superconducting qubits behave much like atoms. They have quantized energy levels that can be addressed by applying microwave excitations, and they can be prepared in quantum superpositions of those energy levels, the nanoscale equivalent of Schrödinger’s cat being at once alive and dead.

I enjoy quantum nanoelectronics research for the same reason I enjoyed ultracold atoms research. I get to have a hand in every level of the experiment, from design of the chip, to nanofabrication, to packaging and installing samples in our dilution refrigerator (superconductivity requires chilly conditions, 10-30 millikelvin, or less than -459 degrees Fahrenheit), to wiring up our microwave lines, designing and applying pulse sequences, acquiring measurements, and analyzing time-series data. We work in teams of students and postdocs, meaning that I always have colleagues on hand to help with everything from interpreting results to hoisting heavy magnetic shields. The whole experimental process is often cyclical, with the data analysis pointing us to improvements needed in chip design, so that we start back at the beginning, better informed. In the end, a lot of satisfaction comes from building up the ingredients for observing quantum phenomena by hand!

One of my current experiments explores a new method to entangle many qubits that are far apart from each other on a chip. Entanglement is one of the building blocks of quantum information processing, giving quantum computing its power. Many entanglement schemes for superconducting qubits are limited to nearest-neighbor interactions – they only work when the qubits are next to each other. I’m working to design circuits that overcome this limitation. Along the way, we’ll try to understand more about the delicacy of entanglement, how measurements can sometimes help and sometimes hinder, and what new simulations this tool might enable.

It’s a very exciting time to be doing research in quantum information, and if you’d like to learn more about QNL, please visit us at qnl.berkeley.edu. Thanks to L’Oreal USA For Women in Science, you can also see a video of me that features the inside of a dilution refrigerator and proper cleanroom garb (facebook link is https://www.facebook.com/LOrealUSA.FWIS/videos/10159637972075367/).


SWPS Scientist: Elizabeth Niespolo

Me_fossilI am a Ph.D. candidate in Earth & Planetary Science, and I work with Prof. Paul Renne and Dr. Warren Sharp at the Earth & Planetary Science Department and Berkeley Geochronology Center. My research focuses on elucidating the timing and tempo of human biological and cultural evolution and understanding the environments in which past humans subsisted. We collaborate with professors in the departments of Integrative Biology and Anthropology to address more integrative questions focused on paleoecology and human evolution.

Evidence of human evolution roughly spans a paltry 0.1% of Earth’s history, but the earliest life on Earth is still being understood from more than 3 billion years ago. And yet, we humans have utilized natural resources for every aspect of our daily lives in ways no other creature on Earth has before us. Exactly when in our history, and under what environmental conditions we made evolutionary and creative leaps, is the focus of my research.

The Earth is a dynamic system and understanding its past requires a myriad tool kit, one of which is the rock record. Preservation of the rock record occurs in the three dimensions of space, but to correlate events over vast areas where the rock record can be discontinuous, we need to know the fourth dimension of time. Geochronology puts a time axis on the rock record by utilizing the radioactive elements trapped in rock-forming minerals to tell time. Like radiocarbon dating, the methods I use are based on the physical mechanisms of radioactive decay, where certain isotopes of an element decay at a known rate to produce daughter elements. The geochronologic technique (or “geochronometer”) one uses will depend on the kinds of questions being asked.

In my case, I want to refine our understanding of what environmental conditions were like when humans were evolving, developing stone tools and agriculture, and expanding their geographic range within and out of Africa. For these questions, I need geochronometers capable of producing precise and accurate ages ranging from the nearly modern day back to ~6 million years ago, when our human ancestors, or hominids, first evolved in Africa. I apply 40Ar/39Ar and Uranium series (or U-series) techniques; this allows me to sample a wider variety of environments and rock formations for dating rather than using only one technique. 40Ar/39Ar geochronology derives from the traditional K-Ar technique and can be applied to timescales between ~103 and ~108 years; in human-occupied landscapes, we mostly apply this technique to volcanic ashes produced from explosive eruptions. U-series geochronology is most useful at timescales of ~0 to 750 thousand years, and I sample carbonate rocks that can be found in soils, caves, and as biologically-formed minerals, such as corals and eggshells, often found in association with human-occupied sites.

Measuring the age of a rock requires careful preparation and the use of sensitive instruments called mass spectrometers. We first have to isolate the component of a rock sample of interest, usually a particular mineral, and this can require many steps including crushing, sieving, dissolution, and density, magnetic, and/or chemical separation. We can then measure the isolated rock fraction on a mass spectrometer: this relies on the fundamental relationship between magnetic and electric fields to measure the precise concentration of different masses of ionized isotopes when run through a controlled magnetic field. We know the half-lives of radioactive parent isotopes such as 40K and 238U fairly well, so if we can measure the parent and daughter products precisely, we can determine how long it has been since the daughter products have grown in a rock sample as a result of radioactive decay. Because geologic processes forming minerals and rocks can be complex, slow, or discontinuous, the age of a rock is not

always the simple product of calculating an age based on these measurements. Geochronologists must also understand the relationships between different geologic, physical, and chemical processes, and how this will impact a calculated age. This often requires fieldwork and other laboratory techniques to corroborate our results and interpretations.

I think one of the best parts of geology is fieldwork, and this sets it apart from many other STEM fields. Fieldwork is a respite from the business of modern life – no phone service, no internet, no screens, (also no running water or much electricity), just nature and a time to imagine what the world was like thousands to billions of years ago. One of my projects includes fieldwork in the East African Rift Valley, where among the earliest human origins derive. Here, we sleep in tents for a number of weeks to survey and collect fossils, archaeology, and volcanic ashes for dating. On a typical day, I will get up before the sun rises, eat lots of carbs, prepare my pack with water, a rock hammer, trowel, maps, field notebook, GPS, and other amenities, and then we all head out in a caravan with the professors and the field crew. The geology crew (myself included) surveys the area with paleontologists and archaeologists to see what the relevant finds are in the area, and then we walk out the vertical extent of the sediments by hiking all over the landscape to describe a stratigraphic section encompassing the finds. Here, I am looking for volcanic ashes because they contain minerals that can be dated with 40Ar/39Ar technique. On any given day, we hike 5-10 miles, we see various wildlife (my favorites are ostriches and baboons), and we encounter local people herding animals.

Rocks are like time capsules, chapters in Earth’s history book. But, you have to be able to read the rock record to understand what it is telling you about the past. I am grateful to have been able to return to school for my Ph.D., but it took a lot of personal exploration to get here. In those years between undergraduate and graduate school, I discovered the intersection of my interests and my talents; I also learned what I could do every day with satisfaction, and, just as important, what I could absolutely NOT do every day without going crazy! My favorite part of what I do is the constant learning. I am never bored, and I am always being challenged.

SWPS Scientist: Anisha Singh on next steps

anishaHey everyone! My name is Anisha.  I’m a senior majoring in physics currently in my last semester at Cal.  Many students would probably agree that your final semester in undergrad can be a very exciting but also pretty nerve-wracking time.  You’ve been on a path for more or less the last four years of your life and you’re finally approaching your destination.  But then you have to ask yourself: well, where do I go now?

To start trying to answer that question for myself, I spent much of this semester not looking forward, but rather taking time to look back.  I’d like to share a bit of that reflection on what lead me to study physics in college and my subsequent undergraduate experience.

In high school, there was never any particular subject I disliked.  And although that predicament may have worked well for report cards, it didn’t help when it came to choosing a career path or course of study to pursue in college.  I didn’t have a passion for anything.  However, while I didn’t have any passions, I did have a lot of questions

There was a particular question I was interested in at the time.  That question came from the other end of the academic spectrum compared to physics.  It came from music.  I was awfully shy when I was little, but music gave me something to be proud of.  Over the years, playing the piano and clarinet became a large part of my life.  I was curious about the acoustics of my clarinet.  A simple question: why does my clarinet sound the way it does?  That question sparked a two-year project in high school analyzing harmonic spectra and vibrations, their relationship to physical sound, and how that relationship could be modified.  Physics gave me a new way to look at the music I’d been making for years.

From that experience, I realized there was a place for people with lots of questions: physics.  Throughout college, I had the opportunity to discover the exciting possibilities that come from asking questions, particularly the ones that haven’t been asked before.  I was able to explore the field of physics, not just as a student, but as a scientist.

One of my first experiences with scientific research was in working with Dr. Carl Haber at Lawrence Berkeley Lab on the IRENE project.  The IRENE project implements instrumentation from particle physics to scan the surfaces of phonographic discs and cylinders which are too damaged to be played through mechanical playback.  Using interferometry techniques, we can create digital maps of these surfaces.  Then through image analysis of these maps, we can reproduce the audio data of the artifact with no contact.

My experiences working on the IRENE project undoubtedly opened many doors for me.  It eventually led me to the opportunity to work with Dr. Daniel McKinsey at UC Berkeley on the LUX Experiment, a dark matter detector, and then with Dr. Stuart Brown at UCLA on NMR experiments to study superconducting materials.  But perhaps even more importantly it showed me the need for a wide diversity of perspectives in scientific research.  When conducting acoustics research, my background as a musician often offered me an additional lens to view our data through.  For most students, college can be a time of challenges both academic and personal.  For me, a chronic challenge was believing that I had the ability to be a good scientist.  My experience working on IRENE however showed me there was a space for me in this field.

Fast-forward from disinterested high schooler and self-doubting undergrad, I now feel not just confidence, but pride when I introduce myself- Anisha Singh: Physicist. I’m excited to be continuing to study physics this fall in graduate school and pursuing a career as a scientist.  Although as graduation nears and my next steps for beyond college become much clearer, when I look back now on the moments where my path was less certain, I don’t see a time of anxiety, but rather a time brimming with the possibility of new opportunities and the undeniable promise of new questions.

SWPS Scientist: Melanie Archipley and IAYC

melanieMy name is Melanie and I am a recent graduate of UC Berkeley’s physics, astronomy, and German departments. For many undergrads, spring semester is the time to plan and apply for their summer break. It can be a window for going home, working, staying in Berkeley to do full-time research, participating in a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU), doing an internship, or traveling – which are all fantastic options. One of the best decisions I made in college was to participate in the International Astronomical Youth Camp (IAYC), and I’d like to share with you why you should consider this program for part of your summer.

I first heard about the IAYC through a Facebook post in a physics group, advertised as a summer camp in Europe for 16-24 year olds interested in astronomy. I was attracted to the idea of being able to combine travel to Europe with my astrophysics major, but when I got there, it became so much more than just those two passions. In just three weeks, I was able to form connections with 70 science students from 30 different countries. We were segmented into working groups, which have an overall topic – such as particle physics, cultural astronomy, rover robotics, and so much more – in which people partner up on a specific project tailored to their educational background. The leaders form their groups while balancing nationality, gender, and age so that each group is a deliberate mixture of identities and backgrounds. At the end of the camp, partnerships write a formal report on their project, which gets consolidated and published in a beautiful report book and keepsake. Though “astronomy” is in the name, it is for students studying all disciplines – including math, engineering, chemistry, physics, and others – who have an interest in the program.

Unlike a summer school or REU, the IAYC maintains a camp-like atmosphere. There is no internet allowed and connecting over games, music, sports, and competitions is stressed instead. We have a rigid daily schedule of eating, working, relaxing, and bonding activities, with two days during the camp that are for a “field trip” and free day. In 2015 in Germany, we visited the Karl Schwarzschild Observatory in Jena, Germany. In 2017 in Spain, we visited the European Space Astronomy Centre in Madrid, Spain. In 2018 in the UK, you’ll have to come to see where we go! My favorite part about the IAYC is the passionate and talented people who attend. On one of the most special nights, people from each country put together a short presentation about their country. It’s a chance to share culture such as dance and dress, show off your country’s food (USA brought pop rocks in 2017), make people laugh, or even share political sentiments, such as from the perspective of a student in a conflict-filled country. During this event alone, I learned more about far corners of the world than I ever did in school.

The IAYC is an incredibly unique learning experience and environment. Everyone meeting the age requirement can apply – there is no GPA requirement, no prior research experience or skills needed, and no letters of recommendation to chase after. The application simply consists of a motivation letter in which you describe why you want to come, how the experience would benefit you, and how accepting you would benefit the camp. Applications for summer 2018 are open at apply.iayc.org until April 7th, and you can contact me at melanie@iayc.org if you have questions!

SWPS Scientist: Clio Sleater

clio I am a PhD student in the physics department, where I study with Prof. Steve Boggs at U.C. Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory. My research is in the field of high energy astrophysics, the study of X-rays and gamma-rays emitted from astrophysical objects. The focus of my group is to develop novel instruments to detect gamma-rays from space. Currently, we are working on the Compton Spectrometer and Imager (COSI), a balloon-borne gamma-ray telescope. COSI is designed to measure polarization from compact objects such as neutron stars, black holes, and gamma-ray bursts; map the 511 keV positron annihilation line from the Galactic plane and bulge; and image lines of radioactive decay to learn more about stellar nucleosynthesis.

COSI is sensitive to photons in the energy range of 0.2-5 MeV, known as soft or medium energy gamma-rays (depending on who you ask). This energy range is referred to as the MeV gap and is the least astrophysically explored range across the electromagnetic spectrum. Due to high instrumental and atmospheric backgrounds, low interaction cross-sections, and the inherent difficulty of imaging at these energies, the sensitivity of MeV telescopes is currently much worse than the sensitivity of telescopes in neighboring energy ranges. Though many challenges come with observing MeV gamma-rays, this energy range is scientifically rich: we can learn a lot about signatures of stellar nucleosynthesis, positron annihilation, and emission from the most extreme environments.

MeV gamma-rays primarily interact with matter via a process called Compton scattering. To detect these gamma-rays, COSI utilizes 12 high purity Germanium detectors. When incoming gamma-rays Compton scatter in the COSI detectors, we use our understanding of Compton scattering to determine where in the sky the gamma-rays came from, as well as to measure the energy and polarization of the incoming gamma-ray. Because gamma-rays are absorbed in the atmosphere, gamma-ray telescopes need to be in space to study astrophysical objects. COSI is carried into space by a scientific balloon filled with helium, where it floats in the uppermost regions of the atmosphere. Balloons are much cheaper than satellites, so they are a great platform to develop new instruments.

I spent the first few years of my PhD working on building and calibrating the COSI instrument. My roles on the project have included testing and installing our shielding and cooling subsystems, writing the monitoring and commanding software, and any random tasks that need to get done. In the early summer of 2014, we built up COSI in our lab at Berkeley for the first time and tested it to ensure that it was working as expected. We then immediately took it apart and shipped the components to the NASA ballooning facility in Palestine, Texas. There, we spent two months rebuilding the instrument, this time including key components that NASA provided such as telemetry, batteries and solar panels. Once we had confirmed that our detectors were not adversely affected by noise from the NASA electronics, we concluded that COSI was ready to go to space!

Because mishaps can happen during balloon launches and flights, it’s best to launch in unpopulated areas. NASA has a couple of launch sites throughout the globe, including Palestine, Texas; Fort Sumner, New Mexico; McMurdo Station in Antarctica; and Wanaka, New Zealand. When launching from Palestine and Fort Sumner, the flights can only last about a day or two. When launching from McMurdo or Wanaka, however, the winds push the balloon over much less populated areas (Antarctica and the Pacific Ocean, respectively); thus, the balloon flight can last up to 56 days (the world record), or in theory even longer.

In November of 2014, we traveled to McMurdo Station in Antarctica to launch COSI. We worked day and night to get our instrument ready for launch by the first week of December. Once we were launch ready, we had to wait for the weather to be good enough to launch — basically, we need very low wind. COSI launched on December 28, 2014. Unfortunately, the balloon developed a leak during the second day of flight and the mission was terminated shortly thereafter. Another graduate student in my group went to recover the instrument on the Antarctic ice shelf, and it returned to Berkeley in April 2015 in good working order.

In February of 2016, we left for another balloon launch, this time from Wanaka, New Zealand. Again, we spent the first month of the trip preparing the payload for launch. This time, we had to wait 6 weeks for the weather to be good enough to launch! While waiting, we explored the beautiful area around Wanaka and some of us (myself included) got really into knitting. COSI finally launched on May 17, 2016. This time, the balloon remained healthy, and we had a 46 day flight! The payload eventually came down in Peru. Once again, we recovered the instrument and it’s now back in Berkeley.

During our 2016 flight, we got great exposure of the Galactic center and detected one gamma-ray burst. We also detected three compact objects including the Crab nebula (my area of study). Since then, I’ve been working on analyzing the data. It’s been quite a change going from working in the lab to sitting at a computer all day long, but the variety of the work I’ve done with COSI has made for an interesting and rewarding grad school experience!

To learn more about COSI and our adventures in Antarctica and New Zealand, check out cosi.ssl.berkeley.edu.

SWPS Scientist: Alexis Shusterman

alexisI study in the UC Berkeley Department of Chemistry under Prof. Ron Cohen, who is also on the faculty in the Earth & Planetary Sciences department. Our research group looks at just about anything and everything under the interdisciplinary umbrella term of “atmospheric chemistry,” and for the last four and half years I’ve been working on the BErkeley Atmospheric CO2 Observation Network–or the “BEACO2N” project.

BEACO2N is a web of about 50 little air quality monitoring stations spread around the East Bay (although two of my coworkers are installing another 20 sensors in Houston, Texas as I type!). BEACO2N measures greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, but also pollutants that can be directly harmful to human health, like carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter. I like to think of BEACO2N as an HD-TV for urban air pollution. Conventional monitoring techniques use one to five sites to try to get an average idea of the air quality across an entire city or region; that’s like trying to watch your favorite movie on a screen that only has a handful of blurry pixels. With BEACO2N, we’ve bumped up the number of pixels by an order of magnitude, giving us a much higher definition picture of pollution levels across the Bay Area. No one breathes “average” air and no one pollutes uniformly across a large area, so having neighborhood-level resolution allows us to study air quality on the spatial scales at which urban life actually occurs.

Of course, this is easier said than done–otherwise, everyone would be doing it! In order to assemble ten times as many sensor stations, we need to purchase parts that are (at least) ten times cheaper, and as with many things in life, you get what you pay for. Most of my work has focused on a comprehensive characterization of these lower cost technologies using a combination of controlled laboratory experiments and in field comparisons to more expensive systems. I’ve found that even modest sensors are able to provide useful information, so long as you possess a good understanding of their capabilities and are careful to ask appropriate scientific questions. Right now I’m developing mathematical models that can separate the slow, regional variations in pollution levels from the short-term, local pollution spikes specific to individual BEACO2N sites, or “hotspots.” While the regional changes can be influenced by outside factors like weather or pollution wafting in from the Pacific Ocean, the local changes are more likely to be the result of a single highway, building, or power plant. Isolating the “local signal” will allow us to give community members and policy makers information on where pollution is likely coming from and how to more effectively reduce pollution in their neighborhood in the future.

My favorite part about BEACO2N is the immediate potential to make a positive difference. We make all of our data publicly available online because we believe that everyone has the right to know what’s in the air they breathe. I’ve had the opportunity to talk about my work in cafes, classrooms, museums, even the capitol building in Sacramento, and it’s clear from the audience’s reactions that air quality and climate change are issues that people care deeply about. I feel incredibly fortunate to be a part of such an important project–it makes all of the sweltering rooftops and bird poop-covered instruments totally worth it!